Tesla Virtual Power Plant in SA

A Tesla Virtual Power Plant will be built in South Australia, comprising of 50,000 home solar and battery systems state-wide. The deal between the South Australian Government and Elon Musk’s Tesla was announced last week by Premier Jay Weatherill ahead of the SA March state election. 

The SA government have pledged to do their part in the implementation of the virtual power plant scheme with a $2 million grant and a $30 million loan from the state Renewable Technology Fund.

Tesla Virtual Power Plant

According to Premier Weatherill, a trial of the scheme has already begun in Housing Trust properties, with 100 properties to receive their systems by EOFY (June 30), and another 1,000 in FY 18/19. After the trial is complete another 24,000 Housing Trust properties will receive the systems. 

Since there’s no word yet on the Tesla Powerwall 3 release date, they’ll use the Powerwall 2 batteries which have a 13.5kWh size. 5kW solar arrays will also be used for the 50,000 homes included in the virtual power plant. No word yet on the specifics of the solar panels the arrays will consist of but we’ll bring you that information as it becomes available.

Tesla Virtual Power Plant - Powerwall 2 Solar Battery
Tesla Virtual Power Plant – Powerwall 2 Solar Battery (source: tesla.com)

A statement from Tesla was released: 

“When the South Australian Government invited submissions for innovation in renewables and storage, Tesla’s proposal to create a virtual power plant with 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage was successful. A virtual power plant utilises Tesla Powerwall batteries to store energy collectively from thousands of homes with solar panels. At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant.”

Danny Price of Frontier Economics discussed the program with the ABC:

“The biggest saving for consumers is that they don’t have to pay for as much network cost to deliver power to them because they’re generating their own power,” Price said.

Zoe Bettison, the Minister for Social Housing, discussed the reason they are installing these solar + storage systems in Housing Trust properties:

“We know that people in social housing can often struggle meeting their everyday needs and this initiative will take some pressure off their household budget,” she said.

A mammoth deal and step forward for South Australian solar – we’ll bring you more information as it becomes available!

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Tesla Battery in South Australia completed.

Elon Musk’s 100MW Tesla Battery in South Australia has been completed – well ahead of its December 1 operation deadline. The array of Tesla Powerpack batteries will be tested over the coming days and we can expect the system to be fully live by next Friday.

Tesla Battery in South Australia 

Tesla Battery in South Australia
Tesla Battery in South Australia (source: Tesla)

The Tesla South Australia battery partnership was first inked back in July when Musk partnered with Neoen and signed an agreement with the South Australian government to create the world’s largest lithium-ion battery. The battery farm is powered by Neoen’s 315MW Hornsdale wind farm and is located adjacent to it in Jamestown, about 200 kilometres north of Adelaide. 

The $50 million system is capable of outputting 129MWh and can be used as baseline power during summer peak loading periods, where it can provide enough energy to power 30,000 homes for eight hours, or 60,000 for four. While this might not seem like a lot and one wonders if another company could have done it for cheaper (91 groups bid for the project), it’s definitely been a great way to raise awareness of energy storage in Australia and its rapidly rising uptake (and rapidly decreasing cost). 

It’s important to note that the Tesla battery is far from a panacea for South Australia’s energy woes – as Tony Wood, the energy program director at the Grattan Institute, told the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Over time, storage can help put downward pressure on prices because it can flatten out peak demand,” Wood said.

“It’s a very useful step in the right direction … but it doesn’t solve South Australia’s problem, even at that scale.”

In the meantime, Tesla continues to burn through cash at the rate of $8,000 USD / minute as they struggle to get on top of the Model 3 rollout. What does this mean for the Powerwall 3? The next 12 months will be extremely interesting for Elon Musk and his ‘blue sky’ investors – we hope they’re able to get all their ducks in a row and Musk can start making Tesla more cashflow positive. 

In the meantime, let’s see how Tesla’s battery works over summer for South Australia! 

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Renovagen commercial-scale portable solar power

UK-based Renovagen has been doing some exciting work in the field of portable solar, with commercial-scale portable solar power systems utilising their ‘rapid roll’ technology recently deployed at Flat Holm, in the UK. They’re also working on rolling out (sorry) this technology on a much larger scale – their “Rapid Roll I” will fit in ISO shipping containers and could be a complete game changer in terms of commercial-scale portable solar power. 

Renovagen’s ‘Solar Carpet’ and Flat Holm

Flat Holm is a small island in the Bristol Channel, five miles off the south Wales coast. Traditionally, providing electricity for it has been a ‘challenge’, according to Flat Holm team leader Natalie Taylor. It has no mains supply and the island has been using old solar panels and diesel generators. 

Gareth Harcombe, energy and sustainability manager at Cardiff Council said: “We were looking at solar and hydro, but that takes up a lot of land and land in cities is expensive. But there is a lot of land that we have that’s available whilst it waits for other opportunities. So this was a question about how we could generate electricity in a way that was portable, so once the site is needed for something else it can be moved on.”

That’s where Renovagen came in – their “rapid roll” roll-up solar panels are providing an average of 11KW of power – enough for four residents and visits from tourists. The system includes batteries capable of storing 24KW/h of power, which is about a day’s worth of the island’s energy requirements. This is a fantastic and cost-effective interim solution until they decide what the optimal choice for Flat Holm’s electricity generation will be. 

Renovagen Solar Carpet
Renovagen Rapid Roll “Solar Carpet” deployed at Flat Holm, UK (source: renovagen.com)

About Renovagen

John Hingley, Renovagen Managing Director, started work on this scaled-up mobile solar technology in 2012. It’s now the leading UK startup in commercial-scale portable solar power systems. They fully funded a £1,000,000 equity investment pitch via the UK crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube, in April last year – to help the speed up the development and go-to-market costs of their “Roll-Away” rapid roll portable solar systems. The company had hoped to raise £600,000 in equity funding so this was a great result. 

Currently based in Milton Keynes, their technology has been growing in leaps and bounds – take a look at the video below to learn more about how it works:

Rapid Roll Overview Video Presentation Sept 2016 from John Hingley on Vimeo.

Renovagen Rapid Roll “I”

The Renovagen Rapid Roll “I” is one of the most exciting of their products – currently under development, this portable solar power solution will come in an ISO (International Standards Organization or intermodal, i.e. a standardised size) shipping container and can provide enough power (depending on how technology goes, this could be up to 600kWp, according to Renovagen) for a small city. 

The idea of mobile and portable industrial size scale solar power one is extremely exciting and it has a lot of potential uses. The Rapid Roll “I” will fit in 20ft ISO or 40ft ISO containers and will be able to deploy 5x200m and 10x200m of solar panels respectively.

It comes complete with inverters and a large battery bank (specifics not available yet). 

Commercial-Scale Portable Solar Power

There are many uses for commercial-scale portable solar – off grid power in remote locations is extremely expensive and complicated to set up. Military, disaster relief, mining, construction, events, film production, and telecommunications are all situations where this ‘container solar’ idea could provide a huge help at a cost-effective price. 

If they’re able to scale this technology quickly, imagine how useful it’d be in situations like Puerto Rico where Hurricane Maria has left their ravaged state-owned utility PREPA trying frantically to restore power to the island’s 3.4 million residents. Elon Musk and Tesla has stepped in – they’ve been shipping their Powerpack and Powerwall batteries over there and there’s talk of installing a Tesla microgrid in Puerto Rico, but it’ll still be months before grid power is restored to anywhere but places that need it the most urgently (hospitals, authorities, etc.)

This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in portable solar of the past 10 years – so we’ll see what happens in the wake of Flat Holm and keep you updated. Very exciting stuff for solar!

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Hornsdale Wind Farm – Solar Powerpack Party!

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has attended a Powerpack unveiling at Noeon Hornsdale wind farm in Jamestown, South Australia. The Tesla South Australia battery partnership has been the talk of the nation since it was announced back in July. The lithium-ion battery is now 50% complete and will be built within 100 days of 29 September.

Tesla and the Hornsdale Wind Farm

The 129MWh lithium ion battery is being built to prevent load-shedding blackouts that have plagued South Australia in recent years, most notably in September 2016 when almost the entire state was without power at a point. These blackouts continued over summer as the government scrambled to work on energy security. It will also help

Tesla’s battery seeks to repair some of the energy security woes South Australia had to deal with – it will also help stabilise the grid while generators are started up (in the event of network issues / unexpected weather events).

The Hornsdale Wind Farm signed a grid connection agreement with Electranet on September 29 and some of the Powerpack units were already operational. As per the initial agreement between Musk and the South Australian government, Tesla now has 100 days to complete the task or it’s free – so the clock is ticking! 

If you want to learn more about the Tesla Powerpack in Australia please follow the link where we discuss Tesla’s commercial/industrial grade lithium-ion battery storage offering in more detail. 

Tesla Powerpack Celebration 29.09.2017

Hornsdale Wind Farm Tesla Powerpack
Hornsdale Wind Farm –
Tesla Powerpack Halfway Party (source: ABC.net.au via Tesla)

The party was held to celebrate the halfway point in the construction of their lithium-ion battery – Tesla invited politicians, local landowners and Tesla customers to a marquee overlooking the battery array, which is coming along nicely. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” Musk told the group with a broad smile on his face. The event was powered entirely by Powerpack batteries – it’s really exciting to follow this process and we can’t wait for 100 days to be up and see the results this has on the South Australian energy security crisis. 

Youtube user ‘Video2045’ has kindly uploaded a video of Elon Musk’s speech at the Jonestown ‘Tesla Powerpack Celebration’ – you can view it by clicking below!

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Musk slams SA energy security target.

Despite the Tesla South Australia battery partnership currently being undertaken, Elon Musk’s Tesla has rubbished the South Australian government’s planned SA energy security target, saying it will “hold back technology innovation whilst incentivising incumbent technology … imposing barriers on innovation by excluding rapidly evolving fast response technologies”.

Tesla’s Mark Twidell wrote a submission to the government where Tesla expressed their dissatisfaction with the target, saying “We do not feel that the draft regulations and supporting consultation paper are representative of the current South Australian position as leaders and innovators in the renewable energy space”.

SA Energy Security Target Musk Weatherill
Happier times: Jay Weatherill and Elon Musk before the SA Energy Security Target was announced.(source:theadvertiser.com.au)

SA Energy Security Target

Multiple major organisations have harshly lambasted the SA energy security target, which is planned to commence on January 1 and will require retailers to buy 36% of their power from South Australian sources. This number will rise to 50% by 2025 and, according to Nyrstar, who made a submission to the government about the target, “given the generation market structure and in particular the high concentration of generation in South Australia and the high underlying cost of the predominant fuel (gas), it is debatable whether the scheme will be effective at reducing pricing due to these factors”.

As per an article from the ABC, other submissions range from urging caution because it may not lower wholesale prices, to killing off plans for a new interconnector which was slated to feed power into the state. Momentum Energy said implementation of this energy security target is “unlikely to have any downward pressure on prices, and will instead become a pure pass-through to customers”. Origin Energy called the legislation “unclear”, and Alinta Energy posited that such a scheme could add $100 to an average bill.

For their part, the government stood by the legislation, with the Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis advising in parliament on Tuesday that it will lead to “lower wholesale electricity prices”, and will in turn “incentivise more generation”. No word on how exactly that will happen but we’ll undoubtedly hear more from all sides in the coming months. Opposition energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan noted that “even” the Greens were critical of the plan, labelled the government’s energy policy as “chaotic” and called for independent economic modelling before “inflicting further pain on long suffering South Australian businesses”.

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